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Dance movies are simple, and generally good fun. You expect a strong lead, gets embarrassed, pulls together a crew, tracks down that one missing ingredient, falls in love with her, loses the crew, regains the crew and beats the opposition in one big massive dance-off. Works that way in the Streetdance franchise, the Step-Up franchise, even Bring It On.
But not here. It's lovely to see a dance film step (skip, somersault?) away from the generic plot line, experiment, do something new.
Unfortunately The LXD: The Secrets of the Ra forgot to replace the generic plot with any sort of plot. It forgets to replace the big dance-off set pieces with beautifully choreographed demonstrations of high quality dancing. It doesn't even have dialogue.
Instead there is an incredibly disjointed series of set pieces, in which individuals do a few seconds of acrobatics. Sometimes someone else is involved. A few times there were actually coordinated choreographed pieces of dancing, but frankly I've seen better from the local Gilbert & Sullivan Society. A lot better.
Much of the dancing isn't done to music. There may be sound, but it's seldom actual music, and it's even rarer that the movements on-screen actually acknowledge the music.
So the plot's non-existent, the dancing's awful, but what about the actors: There aren't any. There _may_ be some acting in this film, but if so it was hidden well.
As for the cinematography, it's tough to call. The decision to heavily overexpose windows, doors, light wells - any light source - must have been intentional, and may well work for some people. I found it distracting, it prevented properly seeing the activity in the foreground and it wasn't the greatest of the technical issues for the film.
Finally, the set design. The plot less disjointed set pieces all had their own sets, themed around common film genres: The museum, the ship, the school, the factory, the saloon. Quite why any given theme was chosen was never explained, and none of them fit together.
Taken individually though, the set designs were quite good. So at least one thing in the film wasn't utterly terrible. Shame about the rest of it.
Second Sight (2007)
Very much worth avoiding
Second Sight isn't a bad film as such; it just isn't any good. Easily identifiable as a TV movie it's competently created, the acting is fine and the camera moves well. However, a film like this relies on tension. Second Sight has no pretences at being an action film, has minimal (intentional) comedy and instead seeks to entertain through drama and intrigue.
Unfortunately the characters fail to draw your attention, or sympathy, the plot is at best tenuous and the editing is frankly poor. While the dialogue is uninspired, the music is a bad identikit "cheap TV movie drama" collection that would have felt derivative in the 1970s.
In all, this is a film that is very much worth skipping.
Min smukke nabo (1999)
They should have made this a 2 hour film
Short films have no time to provide a back story, to do more than touch briefly on the life of their participants. Within that constraint, some short films don't try and pull together all the threads, answer all the questions.
This is such a film. In just a few short minutes we find out so much about Anis; at the same time, many questions are posed. To tie everything together, to explore the situation to its fullest would take an entire full length feature - maybe a mini-series on TV.
Instead just one thread is explored. It is beautifully filmed, acted sensitively, and leaves you wanting to know what happens next, how things turn out.
That's probably why I gave this film less than a top class rating. It isn't dissatisfaction with the film, more a disappointment that it ended, that I have been left with so many questions.
As with the very best short films, this one I shall remember. And not just because of the beautiful neighbour.
Dans l'ombre (2004)
subdued and intense
This is a very long short film, and yet less happens than in most shorts.
Anne Coesens plays a very understated middle-aged woman in this film that explores a tiny portion of her (apparently) troubled life, involving her neighbour.
The film contains minimal dialogue, which matches its very subdued lighting. Attention is demanded, as much of the tale is portrayed through glances, facial reactions, subtle responses. This adds realism, gives the film a very compelling reality, and draws the viewer in.
Anne Coezens seems perhaps over-acting in her portrayal of disability, but after the first couple of minutes this doesn't matter, and the rest of the film focuses entirely on emotion and interaction, almost ignoring the physical flaw that leaves her so desperate and seemingly vulnerable.
I liked this film. Exceedingly little happens, and what does occur is very understated. There's no great denouement involved, no sense of catharsis for the viewer, but also no disappointment, no lack of fulfilment for watching the film.
Perhaps this film could only be done in French; to produce it in English may lose its hidden passion, it's sense of self, all reason for its being. Despite, or maybe because of, its subtitles, I found myself gripped, from start to end, and enjoyed the experience. I am left thoughtful, and slightly attracted to Anne Coesens, and want to go back to the world portrayed and see more of it. Watch this film, expect little, and enjoy what is shown to you.
League of Legends (2004)
Fantastic skills; shame about the film
This film is really just an excuse to show off the skills of its stars. And they are immensely talented, with quite magical skill.
A simple premise, perhaps inspired by TV adverts also starring Edgar Davids, but ultimately too simple, inadequately explored. I wanted more from the film than just showing off the talents of the cast. Those talents would be better served as half-time entertainment in the final of a major tournament.
There is minimal dialogue in the film; there's minimal acting really too. This sparsity helps focus on the skills on display; regrettably it also highlights how little happens in this short film.
Watch it anyway - or fly to Holland and seek out these people. They are something to behold.
A bit of a 'nothing' film
This short film challenges the viewer. It forces them to ask why they watched it, and indeed, why it was made.
It's not that it's badly filmed, and the acting is competent enough. It just doesn't have a story. There's almost a story there, but it never really develops.
The makers of the film clearly tried in several places to lead the viewer astray, hinting that there might actually be a story in there. Some of those leads, had they been taken through to fruition, may have led to an interesting and thought provoking film.
There is also nothing to help you identify with any of the characters. They can be summed up as 'woman', 'man' and 'girl'. That's as much character development as you get. By the time you think there's genuine peril for any of them, I found myself not really caring.
This short film could easily have become a single scene in a longer film. It would fit superbly in the average Mike Leigh film. But he'd have given you well-developed people to watch, and there'd have been a point to the scene. Without those, it's just a bland filler, worth avoiding.
Little Terrorist (2004)
This short film is professionally enough filmed, and as a showcase for the skills of its makers is extremely effective.
Unfortunately for the casual viewer it fails to deliver. Although the story drags you in initially, it seems to founder, and you finish thinking there should have been something more.
The base premise is actually good; there is much scope for introducing tension, and some obvious story twists that could be included. Perhaps credit should be given for skipping the typical clichés, but nonetheless something more was needed.
I certainly don't recommend that people go out of their way to see this short; however, don't be surprised if the makers go on to bigger and better things.
The Platform (2001)
Very simple film
Filmed with a predominantly stationary camera, The Platform comes across as a B- effort in the final year at film school.
There's nothing really wrong with any of the film; there's just little to write home about.
As a (very) short film it's impossible to describe the plot without giving it away. Suffice to note that it is well executed, with a mix of suspense and humour let down only by a sense of what is going to happen next.
Alas, the film ended just as it had the chance to get very amusing - perhaps an opportunity for a sequel?
Soul Patrol (2000)
Not a traditional romance
As with all the best short films, Soul Patrol has an interesting premise that is displayed with style and simplicity.
Clint Dyer looks comfortable in the lead role and plays off well against Sadie Frost, who is never seen out of a posh frock. The story revolves around their relationship, and although there is clearly a secret here, the director makes no attempt to hide it.
The film works because you find yourself enjoying the interplay between the lead characters, while trying to figure out where things will go between them.
Taking a fine line between drama and comedy with a bias to the latter, the film is almost light hearted, but manages to convey a very dark feeling in places. The only negative points are a couple of rather corny lines from Earl (Clint Dyer), which the writer should (but probably isn't) be ashamed of.
Perhaps not a traditional romance (but what short film ever is) this film is very likeable, and well worth seeing if you get the chance.
Smart Alek (1993)
Brutal short film which hurts to watch but forces your attention
This short film starts off being painful to watch, and doesn't get any better. I almost lost attention, turned off by the depiction of a dysfunctional family, yet the imagery and activity made me watch.
I felt terrible empathy for the father as he tried to pack the car, his daughter ignoring him, playing repetitively on a recorder. The grandmother exists as so many elderly folk, in a simplified world. The son, obviously rebelling against.. well, rebelling. And the mother, barely noticeable in the opening half the film.
The film takes us through a holiday nightmare, evoking memories I'd prefer to have left forgotten, hitting home in too many places. Yet never is the ending suspected, or warned. When it happens, disbelief kicks in, I mentally challenged the credulity of the script, trying to deny the actions taking place on-screen. Hating the family, yet hating their fate left me confused, but I was compelled to watch.
What really sealed this film for me was the simple comment at the end. This is a true story. It is based on real people. And it hurt enough when I thought it was just fiction..